ACU Earth Day celebration includes opening of nature trail

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The ACU Wildlife Society will host the grand opening of a new nature trail at noon April 22 as part of the university’s Earth Day celebration.

Featuring native grasses, trees and flowers, the Parker Hill Nature Trail will be an educational space for students and the Abilene community. Multiple walkways lead to a small prayer garden, which looks out over a field of wildflowers.

The trail is located on the east side of Judge Ely Boulevard on university-owned property. A cluster of trees shields the prayer garden from view of the road. The prayer garden also can function as an outdoor classroom, with rock benches arranged in a circle for seating.

Guests can park at the Hunter Welcome Center and walk under Judge Ely Boulevard through a tunnel south of the trail.

Each variety of plant will have a tag with the plant’s common and scientific names, said Eric Dolezalik, president of the Wildlife Society.

The goal was to have a variety of plants all in one area, Dolezalik said. “We don’t have to drive an hour to see a plant. We can come right off campus and see each stage of growth.”

The tags have QR codes that guests can scan to find a website with more information about each plant.

The Wildlife Society includes students in the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, who worked with ACU’s landscape and grounds management to build the trail. The trail’s site was originally cleared as part of an Eagle Scout project by local Scout Ethan Lewis. The trail was named Parker Hill in honor of James Parker, a former landscape manager who maintained the area for years.

Scott Warren, director of landscape and grounds, said a variety of wildlife can be seen around the trail, including birds, bees, foxes, skunks, turkeys, bobcats and sometimes deer.

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